Law School Dress Code: Jeans & T-Shirts or Suits & Tie?

The first time this concept occurred to me, I was packing my bags for law school and my mother was staring at my clothes as I packed them. I asked her what was wrong and all she did was ask me whether that was all the clothes I was going to take with me. I said that of course it was because I had just packed all the clothes I owned. She looked at me in disbelief and said, “Don’t you know where you are going? You need to take some dress clothes.” She refused to believe that my jeans, t-shirts and sweatshirts were going to do the job. I didn’t really want to argue so we went to the store to buy some more “professional-looking” clothes. The first few days of orientation it was humid in Cambridge, so I didn’t need my “professional” clothes then. When classes started, I tried to wear slacks and collared shirts but after a while I noticed that not many other people were wearing anything fancier than jeans and polos or blouses. I decided to push the more “work-like” clothing to the back of my closet and get back to my more comfortable clothing.

Although I had returned to my more normal attire, I didn’t stop paying attention to what everyone was wearing so that I wouldn’t slip up and find myself completely underdressed. After a while, though, I stopped worrying about it because I realized that people were all over the board. Male students tend to wear jeans or khakis and polo shirts. Female students tend to have more variation. In my section, there were a few women who definitely shared my mother’s mentality. They came to class everyday with perfectly coordinated outfits and nail polish that matched their lipstick. Then there were people like me who generally didn’t wear makeup and only wore jeans and sweaters to class. Toward the end of the semester a friend of mine and I even started to wear sweats to our 8 a.m. property class because we routinely went to the gym together after class.

It wasn’t until the middle of the spring semester of that year that I thought about the subject again. I was sitting down with a group of people for lunch in the Hark. Somehow we ended up talking about clothes. I think someone said that they didn’t like wearing t-shirts and then suddenly another student from my section saw his opening and let us all know how he felt about the way students dress at HLS. I know he isn’t the only one that believes people should try a little harder when they are getting ready in the morning, but he went as far as saying he believed there should be a dress code. “This is professional school,” he exclaimed, “people should be dressing like professionals.” His plan involved a ban on jeans, sweatshirts and t-shirts. As someone who loves to be able to wear her gym clothes to class (and no, I’m not the only one), I have to say that I’m glad there isn’t a dress code here. I do applaud this guy though, I have never seen him wear gym shoes to class and I have never seen him without a collar.

Rest assured there is no dress code at HLS. I think people feel pretty comfortable wearing whatever they want and I don’t think that anyone ever looks out of place. On any given day there will be one person wearing a suit to class and another who looks ready for the gym. If you’re like me, you shouldn’t worry too much about buying special new clothes just to come to law school. You should just come with whatever makes you feel comfortable.

[thanks to ed yourdon and hls in focus via cc]